I had been doing some research, re-reading the code and looking at what my peers have been writing regarding the steps needed to comply with NFPA 241 "Standard for Safeguarding Construction, Alteration, and Demolition Operations for this Blog when another construction disaster struck… and this was a big one…
April 15th, 2019. The day that the Cathedral of Notre Dame burned in Paris, France.
Here I was knee deep in NFPA 241 and boom… And like most folks I was horrified when I heard that this 800+ year old symbol of Paris, an exquisite example of Medieval Gothic Architecture and Religious Icon was in flames...
Then I turned on the live feed and saw the staging on the roof...
To say you could have knocked me over with a feather would be an understatement.
After any tragedy like this, the codes will be reviewed with greater fervor and changes will be made for the better. This is how the codes evolve and we become safer.
With all of that being said, let's get into what you, the Facility Manager (Owner or Owner's Representative) needs to know to be successful in complying with NFPA 241 - 2019. Specifically, how to be successful with fire protection of your facility while under construction, Renovation, and/or demolition.
First off is you, the person in charge of the building, be you the owner or his/her representative, you are referred to in the code as the Fire Protection Program Manager or (FPPM). It is your responsibility to create a Fire Protection Program for the building during construction, renovation and even demolition. This is a weighty responsibility and one that will not only protect property, but lives as well.
Here is what you have to address:
1, Good Housekeeping, nothing contributes to fire like an un-kept house. Piles of sawdust, oily rags, and pieces of cut lumber, paper and other refuge needs to be tended to and stored/disposed of properly. This includes places to safely dispose of smoking materials (if allowed on site).
2, On-Site Security, nothing is more inviting than an unsecured construction site. From kids playing on machinery and climbing unfinished floors to thieves, arsons and even the homeless looking for a place to spend the night.
3, A Fire Protection System, for construction and renovation the fire system will need to change as the work progresses (a wireless system is best and is easily reconfigured to keep up with changes during construction) and in demolition, the existing building fire alarm system needs to remain as active as possible until the work is done. This should also include a means of off-site reporting and have a schedule of weekly testing and inspection with record retention. Any modification to the system (impairment or otherwise) must be recorded and maintained by you.
4, On-Site Fire Brigade, who better to act as First Responders than those at the scene. Remember that these are not trained Firefighters, but knowing how to communicate an alarm to get help on the way and where the fire extinguishers are and how to use them could avert disaster. Fire Extinguishers should be dispersed in accordance with criteria in NFPA 10 Standard for Portable Fire Extinguishers.
5, Development of a Pre-Fire Plan, talk to the Fire Department, let them know where the hydrants and/or sprinkler standpipes are, how to access the building and where volatile chemical storage (if any) is. They will also need to develop, with you, a place for a command post with building keys, radio and Fire Alarm controls exist. All this will save time, property and lives in the event of a fire. Invite the Fire Department back as the work progresses, access changes, more floors go up, elevators and stairwells get installed, in other words "things change" and they will be grateful for the information. Almost constant communications with the Fire Services has to be a fact of life, for example they will want to know where and when dangerous "Hot Works" will be performed so that proper detection, fire extinguishers and even a Fire Watch can be scheduled. You will find that this will be a requirement in your permitting process.
6, Rapid Communication, time is of the essence, wasted time could mean wasted lives... Make sure everyone knows where to go to communicate a problem and what to listen for indicating a problem in the building. This can be accomplished by radio (walkie talkie), addressable wireless manual alarm activation points placed liberally around the site and training, training, training...
7, Consideration of Special Hazards resulting from Previous occupancies, in other words if this isn't your first rodeo, don't reinvent the wheel, bring you experience to bear and make adjustments when you see familiar pitfalls and obstacles. If this is your first time in this position, then rely on the experience of a mentor and other individuals in the field, join an industry association and learn from those who have been there and done that... Learn the Code… NFPA 1, 10, 13, 72, 101, 241 and any building code that affects your work and is applicable in the municipality that the work is being done in.
8, Protection of existing structures and equipment from exposure fires resulting from construction, alteration, and demolition operations... A prime example is the Columbia Gas Line renovation that took place in Massachusetts in the Fall of 2018 that cause fires and explosion in multiple residences in North Andover, Lawrence and other towns due to over pressurization of the gas lines (not exactly one fire causing another, but the domino effect was far reaching). It is April 2019 and they are still replacing appliances in those towns affected.
Of course this is a bit of a simplification, I could go into greater detail but this would change from a blog to a book. Get a copy of NFPA 241, it takes a couple of hours to read and years of practice to do right. Your efforts will be rewarded by a friendly Fire Department, a happy boss, successful construction efforts and the knowledge that your building will not show up on a live feed on my computer… Most importantly, you will save lives.